Saturday evening, Lycée Français honored designer Jean Paul Gaultier for his leadership in the arts with a gala at the Park Avenue Armory. Gaultier, himself, was on hand to accept the award, but joked he might be there for another reason, "I think I will should take some lessons here, so I can learn English a little bit better." Laughing, Gaultier continued, "I will apply [to the Lycée Français] to be a student!"
Although he has a charming, yet heavy, French accent, Gaultier is being modest about his language proficiency; "I was lucky, because through fashion I could learn language," he explained. Initially taught English in a French school, the couture designer admited that he was a bad student and mostly picked up his impressive skills in an unlikely place: the Philippines. "I worked for Mr. [Pierre] Cardin in the Philippines where they were speaking English, but also Spanish," Gaultier recalled, "So, I learned how to speak English, but with a Spanish accent."
Surprisingly, Gaultier believes that more French people should learn English, and not the other way around, challenging the stereotype that Americans are Europe's most obnoxious tourists. "The Americans, they make the effort," he explained, "It's very nice, because they know some words when they go somewhere, and they say it in a very nice way. They are more polite and more well-educated." Gaultier continued, speaking freely at the gala, "To be honest, sometimes I realize that in France, there are a lot of people of some position, a minister of culture, for example, who don't speak very good English. I'm surprised, like even Jean Dujardin, the actor doesn't..."
Attempting to speak English in France isn't the only American quality that has impressed Gaultier, the designer even admits that American women are generally more stylish than Parisians. "Honestly, in France -- where the women are supposed to be the most elegant -- I never saw it. I see a lot of Americans that are very elegant and have a sense of style." Shockingly, he continued, "Maybe because there were the fashion houses there a long time ago with the haute couture that there is that reputation? Maybe there are still the houses that do good collections of clothes? But, the women in Paris? The Parisian? It is a long time ago. That doesn't exist anymore."
What is it that Gaultier likes so much about the American look? "There is a type of very modern woman, like simple, but nice and efficient. It's like Halston's style. In France, sometimes, there is the problem that they don't want to be seen."
Gaultier did have one kind thing to say about Paris, "Each fashion week has it's own identity. At the end, there are a lot of different countries that come there [to Paris] to show. Maybe that's why Paris is known for fashion, because it's a melting pot. Many people come from many places. And that, is the only positive part."
Check out Gaultier's controversial Amy Winehouse-inspired spring 2012 couture show below: